This article focuses on the results of Niccolò Zapponi’s research on fascist youth organizations, a groundbreaking essay published in 1982. The author emphasizes the originality of the essay, the very first account of the history of youth fascist organizations based on previously unpublished archival material and, above all, one of the first historiographical attempts to describe and better assess the dynamic of power within the fascist regime. Faced with the well-established interpretation of the National Fascist Party as a bureaucratic institution lacking in any political weight, Zapponi highlighted, instead, the enduring dynamism of the party; he demonstrated the existence of a plurality of centers of power - often in conflict with each other - as a structural feature of the regime; he maintained, finally, that the system’s «internal logic» had determined its evolution toward a «party dictatorship». Based on these outcomes, the historian decisively put Italian fascism among contemporary totalitarianisms. In his conclusion, the author claims that credit should go to Zapponi for having adopted - even if not actually theorized - a new approach to the study of Fascism, based on his intuition of the relationship between ideology and organization, between the myth of the fascist «new man» and the institutions established to make the myth real.
Keywords: Niccolò Zapponi, fascist youth organizations, fascist education, Opera nazionale balilla (Onb), Gioventù italiana del littorio (Gil), fascist myth of the «new man», historiography